New study finds that Nixon quit being president long before he resigned

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tags: Gerald Ford, Nixon



Matthew N. Beckmann is Associate Professor, Political Science, School of Social Sciences, University of California, Irvine.

On August 9, 1974, Richard M. Nixon formally resigned the presidency; however, folklore hints Nixon informally quit fulfilling his duties well before then. 

As Watergate became less “a third rate burglary” than “high crimes and misdemeanors,” rumors of President Nixon’s wallowing, wandering, drinking, and mumbling swirled. Yet evidence for such assertions has been thin, and prevailing scholarship offers compelling reasons to believe Nixon’s institutional protocols overrode his individual proclivities. 

This study offers a new, systematic look at Nixon’s presidency by coding his public events and private interactions with top government officials during every day of his presidency. 

Contrary to our expectations, the results corroborate the rumors: Richard Nixon effectively quit being president well before he resigned the presidency. In fact, it turns out there was a defining moment when Nixon disengaged from his administration: on December 6, 1973, the day Gerald Ford was confirmed as Vice President.




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